Northumberland 2021: Part Fourteen
17 June 2021
After the excitement of the night at Berwick Upon Tweed, I was happy to begin my drive south, and I thought I would stop at my favourite spot, Bamburgh Castle for my last night. I secretly hoped the sky might clear so I might try an astro shot here, but that didn’t happen, so I aimed to simply have a relaxing night and start to the day, before I said goodbye to the castle for this trip. Dawn revealed a light mist, but no further photos were worth doing here, the tide wasn’t where I wanted it, and the film crew at the castle had built all manner of bits around the grounds that spoiled the features. Instead, I had a slow breakfast, and pondered ideas on what to do today. The mist might help the Newbiggin Couple photo I had wanted to get, as this time it wasn’t too thick, but possibly enough to cover any other features I didn’t want in the shot… so I decided this might be worth checking out for my first stop.
It must have been a very localised mist, because even though Newbiggin is a relatively short drive away, by the time I arrived, there was no mist to be seen, and even the overcast sky was beginning to clear. Since I was here though, I thought I may as well give the shot a try. There might still be enough grey left to pull my vision off. It didn’t work as I hoped however, so I guessed another attempt at another time would be in order. I could still try to get either a full on sunrise, or a smooth, flat, misty background, minimal type of shot here – so prospects are plentiful. Whilst here today however, I also thought to have another go at the sand again. I have never played enough with the tripod to see of I can get a vertical shot with it though – and that became an annoying fact as I felt that it was actually needed for the shot here. Because of this, it wasn’t a great shot, but I tried anyway. Seems this particular location still needs some work for me to get into…
With no set plans for today, I thought I would continue south, and give the river Tynemouth lighthouses a try. These had been mentioned by Alan Blakey the other photographer I had met at St Marys Lighthouse earlier in my trip, as another favourite of his.
The mouth of the river Tyne is marked by 3 lighthouses, although I only found two, being, at the time, unaware of the third. I found parking very easily, and wandered on down to the first spot, The Tynemouth Lighthouse. It had a long walk down a harbour wall (called the pier, tho its not technically a pier, as its a solid structure), and the walk was really pleasant in the sunshine that was now beginning to bathe this area. At the start of the walk were warnings that this pier would be closed in bad weather. Indeed in 1897, a couple of years after the completion of the initial build, a large section had been severely damaged in one of the terrible storms that can hit here. They ended up starting the build from scratch in the end, the destruction was that bad. At the end is the taller of the two lighthouses, and you can easily see across to the South Shields Lighthouse and the pier that that one stands on, marking the southern entrance to the river. South Shields Lighthouse is a much smaller, dinky little thing in comparison to Tynemouth, and it was, like its sister, built in 1895.
It was so nice today that I just took my time and simply had a good explore of the lighthouse and its view, before ambling back down and having a scout of the small beach area near the beginning of the pier. The tide was fully out, but I could see it was coming in, so I snapped a couple of pictures of the pier to guage a shot for later. The foreground here was very messy and too distracting at the moment. To kill a little time afterwards I went for a short walk. I wandered from here to the top of the hill where the rest of the car park was, hoping to find a sculpture I was looking for, but it seemed I had the wrong location for that particular one. I then walked around to the edge of the Priory, which stood on the hill at the base of the Tynemouth pier. As I checked that out, I found I had to make an appointment to go and visit due to the covid regulations, so left here too and simply had myself an icecream from the van parked here instead. It had been a while since I had treated myself to a whippy icecream with a flake in it, so thoroughly enjoyed tucking into that!
After 45 minutes I wandered back to the beach and was pleased to see the water had come in enough to cover the rocky foreground to help simplify the scene. I took some nice long exposure shots, and was really happy with the reflections in the water where the tide was coming in so gently. Whilst down here I chatted to several people. One lady walking her dog had moved here from down south, and had not regretted her move north, to the slower pace that she was now living here. She suggested some other locations I could try, several were further over into Sunderland, however, at that point, I mistakingly thought the city was in Durham county and hadn’t considered locations there. Ultimately, since I had tacked the upper Tyne and Wear area onto the Northumberland county tour this time round. I can simply tack the lower Tyne and Wear areas onto the Durham one next time.
After the water shots were taken, I took a second wander up to Tynemouth Lighthouse. The crowds had thinned a bit, so it looked much clearer, and the sky was a happy blue without being solid in colour. It was almost a picture postcard kinda sky, but for the slight haze on the horizon. I wasn’t about to complain though – back home they were apparently having torrential rain! As I stood composing the shot, I felt that, ideally, I wanted to get down to the lower section of the pier (which members of the public are not allowed to get down to) On the lower level are rails and I imagine a camera placed low down to one of those would give a fantastic dynamic shot. From the top of some steps, a similar, less dramatic view could be had however, and I managed this one at least. This would have to do me, I sighed. I went back to Fred and wondered what to do next.
Since I had the covid test tomorrow, I decided that I might try Newcastle quayside again, and leave really early in the morning to drive directly to the test, before going home… so I headed there. With plenty of time to dusk, I settled myself down and had some tea before heading out at 9 to see how the water looked today. Remarkably – it looked pretty flat. Now how was that possible? This is a river!! As on my previous trip, this fact confused me considerably. I went to the prime position I had found last time to see another photographer here trying some shots with his drone. Ian was waiting for another photographic friend, but happily chatted to me and explained the water. At the turn of the tide, he told me, you have around 20 minutes or so, where the water goes really still…’its like glass sometimes’ he explained. Its something to do with the meeting of the sea water with the fresh river water I seem to recall him explaining. Well that certainly helped me understand what went wrong the last time I was here! It had been nowhere near the tide turning time back then, but more to the point, I had by pure luck timed it almost perfectly this time. He happily chatted, and introduced his friend Andy, and then they invited me to join them in their walk along the quayside this evening, so I, rather shyly, tagged along.
I couldn’t help but get captivated by Ian’s enthuasium and excitement, and despite not knowing either man, by evenings end I had enjoyed a really pleasant time, had moments of excitement, and some points of real laughter. As we walked further upstream towards the bridges, the water was even more still, and some stunning reflections were to be had (see header) The men pointed out some good spots worth photographing, demonstrated new ideas, positions and techniques. Ian literally stood in the road at one point, and quickly snapped a view of a church reflected in a puddle by putting his camera right down to the floor and roughly aiming it in the correct direction. This was an interesting technique for me to observe – especially as someone who has to see the image through the viewfinder, focus carefully and adjust everything accordingly BEFORE taking a shot. Not this one. Down, snap, up, step back to safety, and only then see whether it worked. Ian was clearly an adventurous and experimental photographer, willing to try and see what happened. I found it highly refreshing and rather awe inspiring to watch him. Andy seemed a little more like me, more traditional and conservative in our approaches, tho he wasn’t at all as shy at getting his camera out, as I was feeling. (Why was I feeling like that?! – I remembered I was the same when I went on a few photowalks a few years ago. How very odd!!) At another point we spotted another beautiful shot, and we all desperately wanted to take it. The problem was that the obvious, and likely best position, was on a boardwalk along the waters edge, but there were notices banning people from crossing the barrier to get there. Ian, being the exciteable and adventurous one, tried his luck however, climbed up and stepped half and half to take his shot, before a disembodied voice from nowhere asked for ‘the man straddling the barrier to please step back!’. We all had a good laugh and then each leaned as far as we could to get the shot, ahhh well… I thought I was gonna get pulled up with my tripod leg over the other side, but I was left alone, and managed this one.
After several hours chatting and photographing everything, it grew closer to midnight. Andy had to leave while Ian wanted to stay a little longer. Since I had to get up early to drive home, I too had to say my goodbyes to them both, and received encouraging ‘when you get back here, drop us a line and we will meet up and show you the city proper”. This was such a lovely warm welcome to a city I had never seen in my life before this trip and I waved a happy goodbye as I started my wander back towards the camper. As I got back to my original ‘prime spot’ I saw that the water was, rather remarkably, still almost glass like down at this point, so I grabbed my camera and set up to take the shot here. With the moon lighting the back of the clouds, and the midsummer hint of daylight still lighting the sky a fraction, it looked wonderful to my eye, and much more the classic vision I had hoped for back on 10th June.
Now this evening proved to be the perfect end to this trip, and as I walked back to Fred, I was super happy.
As I drove home early next morning, The sun still beamed until about 1/4 of the way into the drive.. from here I hit a wall of rain that didn’t stop all the way to the covid test, and then home – can I please turn round and go back?